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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Arcola Theatre   Summer 2014

Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical translates very nicely to a fringe-scale production in the able hands of director Luke Fredericks, choreographer Lee Proud and an attractive young cast. 

As Billy Bigelow, the bad boy who does everything wrong in his life but gets a chance to get it right after death, Tim Rogers brings just enough touches of uncertainty to his manly portrayal to capture the simple boy-man out of his depth when encountering real emotions for the first time. 

He sings well and does full justice to the complex and dramatic Soliloquy, except for oddly playing it entirely to one side of the audience, leaving the rest watching his back. 

Gemma Sutton makes it clear that her Julie Jordan is unapologetically the stronger character, her decision to commit to the carnival barker not the impulse of a love-smitten girl but a mature and determined choice. 

If she sometimes, as in What's The Use Of Wond'rin, has trouble making her voice carry in the cavernous Arcola, she makes her voice and our hearts soar with If I Loved You. 

Vicki Lee Taylor is a perky and amusing Carrie, Joel Montague a droll Mr. Snow, Valerie Cutko an unexpectedly sympathetic Mrs Mullin and Amanda Minihan a motherly Nettie. 

In many ways the real star of the show is choreographer Lee Proud, whose dances make full use of the relatively small Arcola stage without ever seeming trapped or cluttered in it. 

With the body of the show presented as a flashback memory from Julie's perspective at the time of the last scene, the Carousel Waltz becomes a time-travelling dream ballet (with a clear debt to Laurie's Dream in Oklahoma) that effectively and evocatively introduces themes and characters to reappear later.

June Is Bustin' Out and Blow High are occasions for exuberant stage-filling dances, and the climactic ballet, beautifully dance-acted by Susie Porter, captures all the complex emotions of the scene and, by extension, of the whole show.

Gerald Berkowitz

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